The case for a Bluetooth Headphone
I discovered bluetooth headsets a few years ago. I commute to work cycling every day and I love listening to podcasts or music on my way to and from the office.
Beyond the obvious advantage of not having wires, bluetooth headsets (or headphones) allow you to remotely control your device – phone, in my case.
So, for example, your phone can be safely stored in the indoor pocket of your jacket or even your backpack and you will be able to skip a track, pause it, adjust the volume, even making and receiving calls.
Disadvantages are that you need to charge the batteries and that they are usually larger than their wired counterparts.
What I had listened to so far: Sennheiser MM100
I tried a few lower-priced headsets who were downright horrible: short battery life, bad sound quality, bad connection with the phone and uncomfortable to some degree.
After much trial and error I decided to spend some money (around 100$) on a pair of Sennheiser MM100.
The MM100 is a headphone I have recommended to anybody who ever bothered asking me for advice. I loved them for using on the bike – sound was great, very sturdy and easy to carry, quite light and almost a full day of battery power.
Only downside: sometimes the headphones would connect (pair) with the phone but from then on just be a dummy with no active controls (no volume up/down, no turning them on/off). When that happened it meant just to wait until the batteries were fully dead. Only happened a couple of times a month, but annoying enough.
Enter JayBird Bluebuds X
I don’t run outdoors with headphones. But I CAN’T run on the treadmill without them. I put on a great podcast such as this week in tech and get going.
The MM100 could not be used: the sweat would completely soak the sponges and they were way too hot.
I was looking for earbuds and my previous experiences were horrible. I didn’t want to go back to lousy bass after being my ears being treated by the Sennheiser.
The JayBird Bluebuds X come with amazing promises from the manufacturer:
- doing both music and calls (yes, they stuck a microphone in there)
- having a special fit to secure them during physical activities
- lifetime warranty against sweat (using a special coating)
- premium hd sound (whatever that means)
- 8 hour battery life (i could not believe this – at all)
They were indeed the earbuds I have been looking for. Or were they ?
Priced at 150$, the packaging is as nice as you expect it to be. You get:
- The earbuds
- a pouch to carry them that includes a short micro-USB cable
- a set of 3 pair of buds and 3 pairs of the rubber “wings”
- manuals, warranty..
The best surprise for me was the micro-USB cable: these earbuds charge with Micro-USB, the same cable that charges my mobile phone and my Kindle… that is just perfect. The MM100 had a dedicated USB cable that was a pain to have to keep carrying with me everywhere.
First Use: Pairing and Sound
If have used Bluetooth before, pairing the Bluebuds x is going to be easy. Just turn them on, go on the bluetooth settings on your phone/music player and pair the headphones.
The sound is truly great. You can forget tin can sound like from the standard iPhone earbuds – these ones get into the ear channel and the buds seals the sound inside.
Bass is actually strong, trebles are clear. For sound quality I would rate them same as the Sennheiser MM10. And it is a high standard.
The sticky part is the fit.
In order to sound as intended, the Jaybird Bluebuds X need to be secured inside your ear channel and to be air tight in there, so that the bass can actually sound.
To help you do that, the Bluebuds X come with 3 different pair of buds (3 different sizes) and 3 different sets of plastic wings. Those wings fit your outer ear and prevent the buds from accidentally slipping out of your ears.
You really need to take your time to try all three buds and all three wings. There will be a combination that feels “just right” – but it will take you some time to find out.
If the buds or the wings are not the right combination for you, the buds will keeps slipping out of your ear.
The second part of the fit is the cord that connects the buds. Leave it too long and it will bounce on your back or get caught in your t-shirt collar. Make it too short and the buds will fall off your ears when you turn your head.
There is also the possibility to use the chord over the ear instead of below – but that will lose the possibility to make phone calls, as you would push the microphone out of the active range.
My struggle with the fit.
Well, after a good hour spent experimenting and some trial runs, I can say I found a great, comfortable fit. I can slip the earbuds in or out without thinking about it and the sound/fit is great.
This though – mainly for stationary hearing or straight treadmill running. I was never able to find the right chord length. My issue is that when I turn my head left or right, the chord will get hooked to my neck and one of the two buds will lose its position and sometimes fall off.
As I said, not an issue when I run on the treadmill, but a bit annoying on the bike.
Truth, I could use the over-the-ear chord position, but I don’t find it as comfortable.
Controls and Calls
A little unit on the chord contains three buttons (play/stop, “+” and “-“). The play/stop button also works as on/off – the +/- are both volume up/down and skip track back/next. The microphone is also on the unit.
Controls are great. You learn how to reach them quickly and audio cues (ie, beeps and a woman which apparently is called Jane telling you “power on” or “headset connected”) clearly give you feedback on when they have been registered.
Call quality is good but with two conditions: a) not when you are on the run or on the bike. Wind will enter the microphone and make you sound like you are on a sailboat during a storm and b) you will need to remove one of the two earbuds – or you’ll just hear your own voice bouncing around your skull – I am not really sure that’s what actually happens, but it’s definitely how it sounds.
Jaybird Bluebuds X Overall Opinion
As I said, I have been looking for a bluetooth headphone to use during running for quite a while. The Bluebuds X have some (little) issues but I still haven’t found anything better.
Let me summarize pros/cons
- Sound quality
- 8 Hours battery life
- Lightweight, portable, robust
- Good bluetooth connection, works as advertised
- Sweat resistant
- Price – but my experience is that with Bluetooth Headphones you get what you pay for
- Isolates you from ambient sounds: dangerous on the road
- Fit – you need to spend a lot of time experimenting in order to find a good fit
We thank JayBird for sending us a pair of Bluebuds X for us to review. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after using them almost daily for a month